Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 3 - Evidence
Ottawa, Thursday, December 14, 1995
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was
referred Bill C-7, respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and
other substances and to amend certain other acts and repeal the Narcotic
Control Act in consequence thereof, met this day, at 9:30 a.m., to give
consideration to the bill.
Senator Gérald-A. Beaudoin (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, we have with us this morning Mr. Eugene
Oscapella, Barrister and Solicitor; Madam Diane Riley, Mr. Glenn Gilmour and Mr.
I invite you to make your presentations.
Mr. Eugene Oscapella, Barrister and Solicitor, Canadian Foundation for Drug
Policy: Thank, Mr. Chairman. We would like to make our presentation and leave
ample time for questioning because we think it is very important to have a good
exchange of views on this issue.
I should like to address four themes today, and Dr. Riley will expand on some of
them. We would be pleased to discuss other aspects of the drug policy in Bill
C-7 as well, but I will focus on these for now.
The first theme is how this bill will cause the very violence which the
Government of Canada professes to be striving to prevent, without resolving the
problems of drug use and drug abuse in our society.
I know that this committee deliberated over the gun control bill and I would
like to talk about the impact of our drug laws on the importation of illegal
firearms into this country.
The second theme is how Bill C-7 will contribute to the spread of HIV, AIDS,
hepatitis B and hepatitis C, all of which can be lethal.
In short, I would like to discuss how our drug policies will kill thousands of
Canadians - not only drug users but people far removed from the drug trade -
over the coming years.
I should like to discuss as well how Canada's international obligations perhaps
do not require us, as various government departments have argued, to
heavy-handedly apply the criminal law.
Finally, I should like to address the claim made by many members of the
government that there are few alternatives and that we must use the criminal
law if we are to deal with this problem.
We are here in an entirely non-partisan fashion. We were concerned about this
legislation when it was introduced as Bill C-85. We remain concerned about it as
Bill C-7. Our objectives are not in any way partisan.
We have prepared quite a substantial briefing document. Unfortunately, we have
no funds for translation. I understand that since it is not translated we are
not allowed to distribute it to the committee. However, there are copies at the
back of the room. The document contains many articles from magazines,
periodicals and other literature. We hope that you will take the opportunity to
review this information. We apologize for the fact that it has not been
translated. We hope that the committee may be able to arrange for some of the
material to be translated.
I would like to talk about violence related to the drug trade. I stress that
this is violence related to prohibition. It is not violence related to people
using drugs; it is violence related to the illegal trade in drugs fostered by
I shall give examples from close to home. We all spend much time in Ottawa. I
have lived here for 21 years. Many of you have been in Ottawa for many years.
In Cumberland, a town just outside at Ottawa, a man and his pregnant wife were
murdered over a drug debt a few years ago. On March 24, 1994, at 180 Lees Avenue
in Ottawa, a man was shot in the head over a drug debt. In 1994, about 15
minutes from here, another man was murdered over a drug debt.
Project Octopus was one of the most expensive joint forces operations in Ontario
history. In 1989, a Nepean man named Jack Martin was murdered. He was shot 25
times. He was shot because he was going to inform on someone's drug dealing
activities. This person had him murdered. The person who arranged the murder was
himself murdered in 1992 in an argument over a drug debt with another drug
dealer. The person who murdered him was subsequently murdered in a revenge
That is the violence which prohibition is fostering. You may recall reports of
the torture murder of a young man in Ottawa a few months ago. The police
believe that the gangs involved in that murder are involved in the drug trade.
These gangs are violent.
Operation Snipe, one of the largest joint forces operations in Canadian history,
took place in eastern Ontario from April to September of 1995. Some 147 weapons
were seized in this operation. About this, Ottawa-Carleton police chief Brian
Ford said, "I have never seen a seizure of this many firearms in my career".
This operation was seeking illegal firearms, stolen weapons and drug dealing.
That is exactly what was found.
The Chief Superintendent of the OPP headquarters in Ontario said, "This is
part of a violent subculture where guns and drugs go hand in hand. Machine guns
are available virtually within eyesight of Parliament Hill".
In case you think that was a bit of hyperbole, I would like to read to you from
a list of weapons that were seized in this raid. They included an M-1 assault
carbine; a .9 millimetre semi- automatic handgun, with clips and a shoulder
holster; a Chinese assault rifle; an M-1 and two .15 shot magazines; a Mach-2
machine pistol; an M-1 .30 calibre carbine and 15-round clip; a Chinese fully
automatic assault rifle; a sawed-off .22 calibre Winchester with threaded
barrel for a silencer; a .303 Enfield; and an FN fully automatic machine gun.
This is what prohibition does. It fosters an extraordinarily violent trade in a
product which the law has made illegal. The law creates the black market.
People step in to fill the void.
We know about the motorcycle gang wars in Montreal. They are essentially a fight
over drug turf. They are not using guns as much anymore; they are using
dynamite. Some 25 people have been murdered in the past few years in these turf
In 1988, a study was done in New York of drug-related murders. There were 400
murders between October and April 1988. Of these, about 200 were drug-related.
Many may think that these drug-related homicides were committed by people under
the influence of drugs. In fact, that was the case in less than 5 per cent of
the murders. The vast majority of them were committed by people engaged in the
illegal drug trade fostered by prohibition.
Again, a small proportion of the murders were related to acquisitive crime, that
is, people who are heavily dependent on drugs committing crimes in order to
feed their habits.
In 1989, there were over 400 murders in Washington D.C., the capital city of the
most powerful nation on earth. During the years of the Bush administration,
from 1988 to 1992, between one-third and one-half of the murders in Washington
were related to the illegal trade in drugs, an illegal trade that exists only
because we criminalize drugs.
The World Health Organization estimates that the illegal drug trade is worth
about $400 billion annually, second only to the arms trade.
The European Banking Federation published a report earlier this autumn on
Canadian banks. Canadian banks have more robberies per capita than banks in any
other country of the world. The European Banking Federation concluded that more
than half these bank robberies were committed by people who wanted money to pay
the inflated black market price of drugs. I do not know where the banking
federation obtained these statistics.
There is also violence associated with the enforcement of our drug laws. The
police, under the orders of parliamentarians, are bashing down doors,
occasionally harming people and occasionally killing people, to counter what is
obviously a very violent and illicit trade in drugs. This is the product of
prohibition; it is not the product of drugs themselves.
Prohibition is corrupting and killing innocent victims. This is not just about
criminals shooting each other. Innocent Canadians are getting caught in the
middle and innocent Canadians are becoming terrified.
I mentioned a drug execution which took place in Ottawa in 1994. The victim was
shot in the head in an apartment building about a 25-minute walk from here. I
wonder how many of the elderly inhabitants of that apartment building take any
comfort from the fact that it was a drug-related murder. They are probably
terrified. This adds to the sense of brutalization that is affecting our
I would next like to deal with how our drug laws and policies are contributing
to the spread of HIV infection. Many may think this is a concern only for drug
users - it is not. If drug users become infected with HIV, hepatitis B or
hepatitis C, people who have no connection whatsoever to the drug-using
community will also become infected. This means that not only drug users die,
as some people claim they deserve. It means that this problem affects all
Prohibition of drugs drives up the price of them, which means that drug habits
may costs several thousand dollars a week to maintain. As a result, addicts use
drugs in the most efficient means possible. Rather than ingesting them orally
or nasally - snorting as it is called - they may inject. Injecting with a dirty
needle carries the risk of infection of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
To maintain their drug habits, many people turn to the sex trade. We know that
sex workers are being paid more to have sex without a condom. It they are
desperate to obtain the money to pay the inflated black market price of drugs,
they will take the long-term risk of infection for the short-term gain of
getting enough money to buy those drugs.
We know that people are going to shooting galleries because they do not want to
be caught on the street with drugs or syringes, for which they could, of
course, be arrested, because the possession of drugs is illegal. Shooting
galleries are drug users' equivalent to a tavern or bar. In these shooting
galleries they are supplied with drugs and syringes. The syringes may be
contaminated and the user may become infected.
Drug users commit acquisitive crimes - they rob banks, break into cars and
commit burglaries - in order to get the money to pay for drugs. Many of these
people end up in prison, as do many low-level drug traffickers who traffic in
order to maintain their own habits, not because they are inherently evil
people. In prison they will continue to use drugs. There is not a prison in
this country where drugs are not available. They will continue to use drugs and
they will not have the means necessary to prevent HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis
I should like to provide you with some figures in this regard. At the Prison for
Women in Kingston, 90 per cent of the women agreed to be tested for hepatitis
C. Some 40 per cent of those women tested positive for hepatitis C. At
Joyceville penitentiary, another federal institution near Kingston, some 28 per
cent of the inmates who were tested, tested positive for hepatitis C. At a B.C.
institution, the figure was 28 per cent. That is what is happening in our
prisons. That is what we are causing when we put drug users in jail.
Stanley de Vlaming is a Vancouver physician who has a large clientele of drug
users. He works in the area of Vancouver known as the downtown east side.
Although he cannot give clear statistical evidence, he says that 38 of his
methadone patients are HIV positive. That is an HIV positive rate of 63 per
Even if you did not care about lives, you would have to care about dollars. It
costs over $100,000 to keep someone alive who is HIV positive. Thirty-eight
people times $100,000 is almost $4 million.
Dr. de Vlaming estimates that 90 per cent of his methadone patients are positive
for hepatitis C.
I stress that HIV infection will spread to the general population. There has
been an explosion in HIV among injection drug users in Vancouver.
Prohibition is not helping people. It will kill these people, and there is not
doubt that infection will spread to the general population of this country. If
we do not take care of the drug users; if we do not rethink the policies that
are increasing the risk of HIV and hepatitis C infection, more people will die.
I do not think that is the appropriate role for the Government of Canada to
I should next like to deal with treaty obligations. We have often been told that
our treaty obligations require us to use the criminal law. Glenn Gilmour, Diane
Riley and Benedikt Fischer have done research on this. This is not my area of
expertise, but my understanding is that these treaties are not as narrow as
they are presented to this committee to be by organizations within the
Government of Canada.
Furthermore, we also have international human rights conventions which provide
the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Those words are also
reflected in our own Constitution. They provide protection against cruel and
unusual punishment. What can be more cruel than putting people into prison
where they run a very high risk of dying from infection contracted there? These
international conventions provide a right to privacy. Perhaps the government
should not have such a strong role in the private behaviour of its citizens.
International human rights treaties should be given some weight as well as the
narcotic control treaties which have been put forward so frequently in this
If these treaties are forcing Canada to take measures that are killing people,
that are breeding violence, that are fostering a massive international illicit
trade in narcotics, why do we remain party to them? I do not accept the excuse
that we cannot back out. We have to rethink this.
Mr. Chairman, I know that you are a constitutional law expert. I hope the wheels
are turning as I say this. I believe it is possible to rethink some of these
treaties. We cannot continue to proceed blindly on the basis that a treaty
obliges us to do something. We have to rethink the impact of these treaties on
Finally, when the bill received third reading in the House of Commons, Dr. Hedy
Fry said that drugs and drug abuse are basically social and health problems. I
could not agree with her more.
She continued to say that they find their way into the criminal justice system,
not because they naturally and necessarily belong there, but because we have
yet to devise a better means of control. I could not disagree with her more on
Dr. Riley has before her just a few of the documents that deal with alternatives
Yesterday morning, I called the Lindes Smith Centre in New York City, which has
very generously been helping us with funding for our organization. They sent me
a list of 50 articles and publications, some of which are repeated here,
dealing with alternatives to prohibition. There are alternatives. Switzerland
is doing heroin maintenance programs, as are the Netherlands, Australia,
Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. There are alternatives. Why is
Canada focusing on prohibition?
It is very difficult to accept the government's statement that it is concerned
about drug users when it is turning them into criminals. It is not necessary to
turn drug users into criminals. It helps no one. It brutalizes our society and
costs an enormous amount of money.
The United States is undoubtedly behind many of the prohibitionist drug policies
in the world. Yet, the United States stops only between 10 and 15 per cent of
the illegal drugs coming across its borders. Despite the use of the military,
the rhetoric, and all the laws of the United States, importing drugs into the
United States is a relatively easy job. The same can be said of Canada. We stop
perhaps 10 per cent of the illegal drugs destined for this country. Plainly and
simply, prohibition does not work. It does not stop the flow of drugs into
Canada and it does not stop people from using drugs.
If you approve this bill, you are supporting the very violence that you sought
to prevent with the gun control legislation. If you support this bill, you will
perpetuate the conditions that will kill thousands of Canadians, drug users and
non-users alike, through the spread of HIV infection, hepatitis B and C, and
through drug overdoses caused by drugs of unknown potency or adulterated drugs.
You will be ignoring measures being introduced in other democratic countries to
reduce the harms associated with drug use. You will not be modernizing the law,
as some people claim; you will simply be modernizing the mistakes.
Canada needs an honest, open, non-partisan reassessment of its drug laws and
policies. More of the same, more of what has not worked, more of what is not
working, more of what will not work, is not the answer.
Dr. Diane Riley, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy: With the help of some
overheads, I shall discuss in more detail some of the issues raised by Eugene
I will not spend much time talking about the situation in the United States, but
I did want to show graphically some of the points to which Eugene referred as a
preamble to what I will focus on.
I shall first briefly touch on some issues around prohibition and its
relationship to violence and to AIDS and other infections. Then I will speak in
more detail about some alternatives used around the world. This is the area in
which I have worked for the last 23 years. I am a professor in the Faculty of
Medicine at the University of Toronto.
AIDS made its appearance when I was involved with research and treatment of drug
users in the early 1980s. I became involved with AIDS and realized that the
only way to stop its spread and to deal effectively with it and other
infections is to look at the policy and the law which promotes the spread of
these infections. I shall go into that in detail.
The material at the back of the room, including a book which I have written, The
Harm Reduction Model, which is available in both French and English, gives an
overview of the harm reduction approach and presents some examples from around
This overhead highlights some of the things which Eugene pointed out. Many
billions of dollars were spent on prohibition in the United States under
President Bush, and that is being continued under President Clinton.
Nonetheless, as you will see from the next overhead, the majority of murders in
Washington, D.C. are related to the drug trade. All of that money has not
Particularly startling is that of the more than 1 million Americans in
incarceration, mostly for drug-related offences, many of them are black and
Latino. This, despite the fact that the majority of drug users in the United
States are white. We are starting to see this kind of racial discrepancy in
arrests here in Canada.
With more than 1 million U.S. citizens in prison, the crime rate is still going
up. It is estimated that in order to enforce the prohibitionist drug laws in
the United States, they will need to build a prison a month until the end of
That is the kind of approach that Bill C-7 is advocating. The approach in the
United States has certainly not slowed the killings - it has exacerbated them.
As Eugene Oscapella was pointing out, prohibition sets up territories because
there is a commodity. If we put cigarettes on the black market, as some places
are starting to do, they would become a commodity for which people would kill.
We have seen this throughout history. There have been tea, opium and tulip bulb
By 1991, one in three AIDS cases in the United States was related to injection
drug use. It is estimated that 70 per cent of new HIV infections in the United
States in the last two years were as a result of injection drug use. Although
in Canada the proportion of AIDS cases related to injection drug use is still
less than 10 per cent overall, we must remember that when talking about AIDS we
are talking about what happened 10 or 15 years ago.
We need to look at HIV rates to see what is happening now. HIV rates are deeply
distressing. HIV rates among drug users are 20 per cent or higher in Montreal
and 10 per cent in Ottawa, which probably comes as a great surprise to many of
us. We have the highest rate of new cases of HIV in injection drug users of any
North American city, including New York. That makes me both ashamed and
concerned for the future of our children.
I wish now to talk about alternatives. Harm reduction is an approach which, as
Eugene Oscapella mentioned, has been adopted around the world. There are
examples of harm reduction approaches in the material which we have provided. It
is being used in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and
Australia, which is particularly relevant to us here in Canada. Like us,
Australia is part of the Commonwealth. It has moved from an essentially
prohibitionist stance to a much more harm reduction stance. It is much more
humane. It has decriminalized marijuana in a number of states. It has seen a
rapid expansion of its methadone programs. It cautions drug users rather than
To emphasize a point that was made yesterday, Bill C-7 still criminalizes the
possession of marijuana. The idea that has been propogated by the Departments of
Justice and Health that you have no criminal record simply because you are not
fingerprinted is very misleading and dangerous. If you lie at the border or in
an employment application about having a criminal record, that in itself is a
serious offence. We should not be misled by that rhetoric.
In Canada, we have a harm reduction approach in our drug strategy. It is an
approach which I think is best summed up by the British statement when they
adopted harm reduction as their national policy. They said, "We have no
hesitation in concluding that the spread of HIV is a greater threat to public
health than is drug misuse". The World Health Organization has since
echoed that sentiment. Officially, at least, in Canada, our drug strategy is
one of harm reduction, a coordinated effort to reduce the harm caused by
alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families and communities. Yet, Bill
C-7, a product of Canada's drug strategy, is working at odds with this stated
What is going on here? Where is our coordination? I think we need to address
Very often we become confused by the use of terminology and assume that there
are only two extremes, that there is either prohibition or free market
legalization. Nothing could be further from the truth. In between there are all
sorts of levels of decriminalization, medicalization, controlled availability,
different kinds of legalization, different outlets and so forth. It is these,
through harm reduction, which we want to explore.
None of us want to legalize all drugs tomorrow. That would be foolish and
dangerous. We are not talking about that. We are talking about looking at
alternatives that are now in practice around the world. In some places, such as
the United Kingdom, they have been in place since the beginning of the century.
These are examples that we can study to learn how our system can be more cost
effective, save lives and produce a better society. Prohibition is not
producing the kind of society in which I want to live or in which I want my
children or anyone else's children to live. It is brutalizing society.
I am sure you are all familiar with Vince Kane's report on illicit and narcotic
overdose deaths in British Columbia. Vince Kane, a high-ranking official of the
RCMP, did a study of these deaths. As chief coroner of B.C., he was most
concerned about the alarming number of deaths. There were over 300 such deaths
He studied the rate of overdose deaths in both males and females in the B.C.
area. Many of these overdose deaths involve the high grade heroin which is
coming in as a result of the markets which have been set up by the warring
between the different cartels in B.C. and Toronto. None of the deaths were as a
result of pure heroin. Just about all of them involved alcohol. After two years
of study on this issue, Vince Kane said quite clearly that these are deaths due
to poverty. These are deaths due to marginalization and deaths due to our drug
laws. He recommends in his report that we adopt a harm reduction approach,
including the decriminalization or medicalization of a number of drugs.
To bring the message home, as this slide shows, the leading causes of death in
young females is illicit drug use and breast cancer. For males, the statistics
are even more startling. AIDS and illicit drug use are the major killers of
young males in B.C.
The situation is not much prettier in the rest of Canada. Last year's figures
for HIV rates among injection drug users are as follows: 6 per cent to 7 per
cent in B.C.; 7 per cent to 9 per cent in Toronto; and between 10 per cent and
20 per cent or higher in Montreal. The World Health Organization has said quite
clearly that once the level of infection of HIV gets above 10 per cent in the
injection drug-using population, you have an explosive epidemic on your hands
for your entire population.
I do not want to be a doomsayer. We are talking about alternatives. The data for
HIV among gay and bisexual communities in B.C. shows that the rates in these
populations were brought down nicely through education campaigns and safer sex.
You will also see, however, that the rates for injection drug users is going up.
The statistics for this year illustrate an explosive situation. The highest
incidence of HIV in injection drug users anywhere in North America is found in
Montreal and Ottawa. You may be surprised to see that Ottawa has an 8.4 per
cent rate while Quebec City has a rate of 10.1 per cent. I find it particularly
surprising and startling that the Ottawa rates are already so very high.
As Eugene mentioned, the prison situation is worse. We have provided you with a
copy of this report on the situation in prisons. It is not surprising, since the
majority of inmates in Canadian prisons are there for drug-related offences,
that the rates in prisons are extremely high.
These data are broken down by whether or not the person has a history of
injection drug use. Many people report using drugs for the first time in
prison. Many people report sharing syringes for the first time in prison. There
is a documented case of more than 15 inmates being infected by the same syringe
that was in circulation for ten years.
We are at the point now that, as is happening in Australia, people will be
bringing legal suits against our correctional system.
The rates are particularly high for females in Quebec with a history of
injection drug use. This reflects the situation outside prison. Drug users are
being sent to prison for drug-related offences. We send them to an incubator.
Bleach was outlawed in prisons because people were using it to clean their
needles. Now, under the direction of the expert committee on AIDS which wrote
this report, bleach is more readily available, but it is very hard to get.
Since having a syringe is an institutional offence, people will not be cleaning
their syringes in the open.
Under the new drug testing programs in prisons, it is more likely that marijuana
will be detected in urine, because it is detectible for 30 days. Therefore,
inmates are turning to heroin and cocaine, which are less detectible. People
are injecting to avoid detection of fumes by the guards.
We are creating an incubator in our prisons. We are familiar with the situation
of unsafe sex and lack of access to condoms there.
Alternatives exist around the world. In Merseyside, there is in place
comprehensive harm reduction programming which involves cautioning, rather than
charging, by the police, and registration of drug users in order that they can
legally carry drugs. The rate of HIV infection in the entire United Kingdom is
less than 2 per cent. In Merseyside, it is 1 per cent. In Edinburgh, where, in
an attempt to deal with the drug problem they instituted prohibition and
removed syringes, the rate of infection rose from 2 per cent to more than 50
per cent in one year. That is now being brought down through intensive
All around the world, harm reduction programs are keeping HIV rates down or
bringing them back down. The most important thing is to bring those users back
into society and treat them like human beings. We must recognize their need for
help and the fact that their drug use is simply a symptom of the things that
have happened to them, in the majority of cases.
The kids with whom I work in Toronto are usually street kids. They are not on
the streets because they want to be. Believe me, on a night like last night
they did not want to be there. Ninety per cent of them are there because they
are physically, emotionally or sexually abused at home and they have nowhere
else to go. If I were them, I would be using drugs too. On a cold night like
last night, what else have they to do?
As you know, our services are being cut back; more so under the Harris
government than ever before. Treatment waiting lists range from six months to
more than two years in some cases. Methadone slots are one-one hundredth of
what they should be. We have the nerve to tell people that they should be in
treatment or getting help, yet there is nowhere for them to go. When they seek
help, they are afraid to be picked up by the police.
Statements in Bill C-7, such as "a container is equal to the drug that is
in it" make it more likely that people will dump their dirty syringes
rather than properly using syringe exchanges. This is very frightening for
people. Already people are being arrested for having syringes. This will only
make it worse.
Finally, by expanding the realm of those things which are criminalized to
amphetamines and the designer, rave drugs like Ecstasy, and to Khat, an
indigenous drug used as part of a community ritual, we are only expanding the
field to include many more young people who will have criminal records for
simple possession, for doing things that you and I did, things that are part of
growing up. They do this because they have no challenges. They have no life. In
Toronto, for a challenge, the kids hang out around the Eaton Centre. Black kids
get together to play soccer in Regent Park and are arrested because they are
not wearing uniforms and it looks like a drug deal is going on.
The situation in Toronto is brutal. I am very concerned. I am concerned about
what is happening to my friends; drug users, street people. I am concerned
about what may happen to their children. Because of that, I seriously ask you,
not only as a supposed expert in drug policy, but as a citizen and a human
being, to stand back from this and look at the broader picture.
If we pass this bill, if we do not have a serious reassessment of drug policy
and social policy in this country, we will go the way of the United States. We
will go to hell in a handbasket in a very brutal and expensive way.
We have alternatives, and they are humane alternatives.
Senator DeWare: What are your recommendations to us besides simply not accepting
Mr. Oscapella: We would like an honest, open, objective, nonpartisan
reassessment of Canadian drug policy. The Le Dain Commission did that 22 years
ago. We never listened to Le Dain. When the bill was passed in the House of
Commons, Mr. Simmons said that the Minister of Health had informally given her
consent to have the Standing Committee on Health re-examine Canada's drug laws.
It is fine to say that, but the proof is in the pudding. If the usual gang of
suspects is on that committee, it will go nowhere. I hate to be that blunt, but
if the review is done by the same people who are driving Canada's drug policy
now, we will not change the system for the better.
There are other things which certainly could be done. Although I have never used
marijuana myself, I continue to be appalled at the fact that we are prosecuting
people for using it. It is a gross misapplication of the criminal law. The
official Government of Canada statement about the criminal law is that it is to
be used as an instrument of last resort. In drug policy, it is being used as an
instrument of first resort. Why do we make it a criminal offence for someone to
use marijuana? It makes no sense whatsoever. It is a waste of resources. We do
not have the money in this country for important social programs, yet we are
wasting perhaps billions of dollars on policing, prosecuting and incarcerating
people who do not need to be policed, prosecuted or incarcerated.
That is my personal view. The foundation itself has not taken a firm position on
this issue, simply because we want to open the debate. We are not trying to
force the issue. We are trying to force rethinking. We think there are some
excellent options available, but we are not suggesting the legalization of
heroin. A tremendous amount of public education must take place before we can
move this process, and education of the public is one of the things we are
trying to achieve.
Mr. Benedikt Fischer, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy: I wish to emphasize
that a major comprehensive drug policy review in this country is necessary. As I
stated yesterday, it is necessary to examine the role, the appropriateness and
the status of the criminal law at the centre of this policy and to investigate
the alternatives that are available.
We have identified three fundamental principles under which this policy review
should take place. First, public health should be a guiding principle for a
policy review on drug policy in Canada.
Second, rational pharmacology is an issue that should be looked at. As my
colleague Harold Kalant pointed out yesterday, the law is based on
scientifically illogical pharmacology. It does not make sense from any
scientific point of view.
Third, cost effectiveness should be considered. There are about 40,000 criminal
prosecutions for marijuana possession in this country each year. From the point
of view of pharmacology, as well as public health, does it really make sense to
prosecute 40,000 marijuana possession offences each year, giving people
criminal records with all the harms associated with that?
These three principles should guide such a policy review. Again, a policy review
can occur without fundamentally examining the role of criminal law and its
appropriateness in such a comprehensive and challenging situation. As we have
said, there are many alternatives available. It is not true that the
international obligations have set up barriers to such alternatives. To the
contrary, the 1988 convention explicitly encourages and enables signatories to
institutionalize alternatives to criminal prosecution and criminal penalties.
They point out treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration as
alternatives to cruel punishment for substance possession offences. As a
signatory to this 1988 treaty, we should take these opportunities seriously and
investigate them, especially in light of the positive effects they have
elicited in other jurisdictions, as pointed out by Ms Riley and Mr. Oscapella.
We must explore that for the sake of public health in this country.
Senator DeWare: Is there more use of marijuana in Canada today than there was in
Mr. Fischer: No, certainly not.
Senator DeWare: Members of my family went through school at that time. I know
there was a lot of marijuana use, although I do not know to this day whether
they were involved because they will not tell me. However, I know personally as
a mother, a friend and a neighbour there was a lot of use at that time.
Mr. Fischer: There was a lot of use of marijuana in the 1960s and it increased
in the early 1970s. We are now at somewhat lower levels.
As my colleague Mr. Smart pointed out yesterday, there is concern about
increasing rates now, especially among students. These trends are occurring in
every western country of the world. Cannabis use is going up slightly in most
western European countries among students as it has in the United States.
The development of these use trends is not in any way related to the harshness
of the law. We cannot control the use of cannabis, or any other illegal drug,
simply by increasing the severity of penalties that we are institutionalizing.
People use drugs regardless of the severity of the penalties that have been
We must accept the fact that, along with education, measures such as
rehabilitation, treatment and social services are important. We must enable
people, especially students, to make rational decisions. Students in grades 9
or 11 do not really care about the severity of the law. They do not even
understand the possible repercussions of a criminal record for the future of
their lives or careers. We need other means. We need to educate and to
rehabilitate or reintegrate drug users. This does not occur through the
criminal law; it occurs through other means in social and medical services.
Mr. Oscapella: Senator DeWare, you were speaking of your role as a mother. I ask
members of this committee how they would like their own children to be treated.
Would you like the police to bust down the door, as they did in Ottawa, in
enforcing the laws that our government told them they should enforce? The
police shot someone in the darkness. He died several weeks later. He also had
liver cancer, so we are not quite sure what killed him. However, I doubt that
the bullet helped.
Do you want the police to bust down a door, perhaps with weapons drawn, to
handcuff your children, and to take them away and charge them, thus giving them
a criminal record? Is that what you want for your children and others you care
about? If you do not want that for the people you care about, then how can you
want it for the rest of the people in this country? That is exactly what we are
doing with this law.
It is easy to speak of how to treat anonymous others, but that is not how we
want our own kin to be treated. We have to look at the problem in that way.
Senator Doyle: You mentioned Le Dain. Do you know of any studies that have been
done which would give us some indication of what the scene might be had the Le
Dain recommendations been adopted back in the 1960s?
Mr. Fischer: There are a number of almost perfect studies, as I would call them,
because they are not experiments. They are actual policy reforms which have
taken place in a number of jurisdictions. I point to the harm reduction model
in Great Britain. I point to the Australian reforms which have lessened the
criminal status and the severity of penalties for marijuana possession. The
Australians have instituted methadone maintenance for addicted heroin users.
They are not criminalizing these uses any longer.
As a result, the indicators of health, the severe harms which have been
traditionally associated with this kind of drug use, have significantly
decreased and the public health aspects have been improved substantially in
these jurisdictions. Drug use has not increased dramatically in these
jurisdictions. It has not increased in the Netherlands or other jurisdictions.
The harm reduction measures which have been implemented there, which follow the
spirit of the Le Dain commission recommendations, have substantially improved
the situation with regard to these indicators of health and harm which they
were trying to avoid. Studies are available in the form of these policy reforms
which show us that improvements are possible.
Ms Riley: A couple of the papers found in the back of our binder document what
has happened in the Netherlands, the states of the United States which have
decriminalized, and also in the parts of Australia that have decriminalized. The
findings show quite consistently that rates are no different in those states
which decriminalized versus those that did not. The patterns seem to follow the
same trend. Those states that did decriminalize saved tremendous amounts of
money by doing so, not to mention the effect that it had of people being able
to get jobs and so on because they did not have a criminal record.
Countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, which have decriminalized
marijuana, find that rates of use are surprisingly low. They are certainly far
lower than in the United States. In fact, in the Netherlands, rates of use went
down. People attributed that in part to the demythologizing of the drug. There
are, therefore, a number of savings.
In the Netherlands and Australia, the main finding was that it separates out the
hard drug market from the soft drug market. That is our concern. In Toronto, it
is easier to buy crack cocaine than it is to buy marijuana. This is why
countries have taken this route, to try to separate out those markets so kids
are not in the position of being lured by the harder drugs when the soft ones
are much less harmful to them.
That is all allowable under the international treaties. I think Glenn Gilmour
would like to address that.
Mr. Glenn Gilmour, Barrister and Solicitor, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy:
I would like to make a couple points about the international treaties in
addition to what has already been said. You have already heard some testimony
about the situation in Australia and directions for reform that have taken
place there. For example, a major feasibility study on providing heroin to
dependent heroin users in the Australian Capital Territory was recently
finished. It lasted about four years. At the present time, the legislature of
the Australian Capital Territory is hearing submissions as to whether to
proceed with such a trial.
The interesting question is whether they can do that, since Australia is a
signatory to both the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs and the 1988
convention against trafficking, both of which conventions Canada has signed.
Their conclusion, with which other scholars agree, is that they can. That
conclusion is based on the fact that the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic
Drugs makes specific exception for the use, manufacture and possession of
narcotics for a medical or scientific purpose. These trials are set up within
the context of carefully controlled studies to determine whether the health of
dependent drug users will be improved by allowing them to be injected with
heroin. Therefore, it naturally falls within the exemption provided by the 1961
The 1988 convention, as part of its definition of offences, builds in the
requirement that it is an offence where contrary to the 1961 convention. It
builds the definition of the 1961 convention into the 1988 one.
To give you a brief idea of some of the other effects of the convention, the
actual offence-creation section regarding personal use and consumption of the
1988 convention reads as follows:
Subject to its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal
- note the qualification -
- each Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to establish as a
criminal offence under its domestic law, when committed intentionally, the
possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or substances for personal
consumption contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention...
Note the different qualifications that are put into that offence-creating
provision. It must be subject to the constitutional principles of the country
and the basic concepts of its legal system. As well, as I mentioned before, it
builds in that it must be contrary to the 1961 convention. Therefore, you have
to go back to the 1961 convention and see what the 1961 convention would
In addition, as Benedikt has already mentioned, with regard to this personal
consumption offence, article 3(4)(d) of the 1988 convention specifies that:
The Parties may provide, either as an alternative to conviction or punishment,
or in addition to conviction or punishment...measures for the treatment,
education, aftercare, rehabilitation or social reintegration of the offender.
It has been mentioned that in some states and jurisdictions of Australia, there
have been laws created which, in effect, decriminalize simple possession of
marihuana. These basically take the form of fines. The person is given a ticket
and can pay the fine. In the material which has been provided is a letter from
the federal attorney general's department of Australia discussing
decriminalization and legalization of drugs. In its examination of the 1988 and
1961 conventions, the letter makes this point under "General conclusion":
In relevant respects, the requirements of the 1961 and 1988 Conventions with
respect to `personal consumption' conduct are not significantly different:
both require the elimination of all possession/use (outside certain specified
Again I emphasize the exceptions I mentioned earlier.
neither therefore permits `legalization' of personal consumption;
both are aimed particularly at `trafficking' conduct;
neither requires criminal proceedings for personal consumption.
The letter goes on to state:
Beyond the conclusion expressed in paragraph 3 above, it does not seem necessary
to consider implications of the two Conventions for hypothetical future policy
options. However, it might be noted that under both of them there is a wide
freedom for a party with respect to the government-controlled use of drugs for
medical purposes....A concrete example of one policy approach is the present
law in South Australia providing the option of an `expiation fee' rather than
prosecution for a `simple cannabis offence' (as defined). In the Department's
view that approach is consistent with both Conventions.
So the position of the federal attorney general's department of the Commonwealth
of Australia is that these fine expiation programs in existence in some parts
of Australia are perfectly consistent with the conventions.
As I mentioned before, the creation of feasibility studies to determine whether
heroin should be provided to heroin users within the context of a carefully
controlled medical provision would fall within the exemption under the 1961
The Australian government, along with other states, is currently undergoing a
major study of cannabis law and cannabis reform. In 1994, they published a
report, along with a number of monographs, on issues such as the effect of the
international conventions. They briefly pointed out that there were a number of
different interpretations of these conventions. They include total prohibition,
where you criminalize; the civil penalties approach, the fine expiation program
I just explained in South Australia; partial prohibition, in other words
focusing on prohibiting trafficking but not having any penalties, civil or
criminal, for simple use and possession; and government-controlled regulation
within the context of a reasonably broad medical and scientific purpose.
The only thing which seemed to be definitely ruled out by the conventions was
legalization, in other words, complete deregulation of the conduct. As we have
said, that is not something that we support.
Senator Doyle: What you have been saying reminds us that there are jurisdictions
that have been acting in a way that I would call consistent with the
representations of the Le Dain report, but we had the Le Dain report before
many of these other jurisdictions were off the mark.
What has happened here? Why have we stayed, as we have, with our orthodox
approaches to law breaking in every way, with only mild doses of humanitarian
change? Incidentally, if you are inclined to blame it all on us and on the other
place, we have been probably even bolder than public opinion would suggest we
should be. So what is it that has held us back?
Mr. Oscapella: Senator Doyle, it depends how machiavellian you want your
conspiracy theories to be. Certainly, the lack of public education about these
issues is very important. Most people, I am sure, think of people who use
heroin frequently, for example, as violent people. Heroin does not make you
violent, but I am sure that the common Canadian perception of someone who uses
drugs is someone who is about to become a dope fiend. A classic film called
Reefer Madness came out in the 1930s which helped to foster this myth. We have
long had these sort of witch-hunts.
You can look at this as a form of chemical McCarthyism. That was the term
adopted by someone writing in the American Medical Association Journal in the
late 1970s. I agree with it entirely. It is a McCarthyist type of witch-hunt.
That is not to say there are not honest people within government and outside
government who believe that the drug laws as they stand are the way to go.
Although I disagree with them strongly, I am not questioning everyone's motives
in this. Many people honestly think prohibition is the appropriate way to go.
However, American pressure is driving international drug policy. They are on a
witch-hunt right now. I cannot describe it as anything other than that. It is
being used as an excuse. It is easy to blame everything in the ghettos of
American cities on drugs, but in fact the real problems are lack of social
opportunity, lack of employment opportunities, lack of educational
opportunities, and racism. It is very easy to set up this bogeyman of drugs,
but that will never solve the drug problem.
There are vested interests which we must acknowledge. A Norwegian criminologist
wrote a book called Crime Control as Industry. There is a huge prison-building
industry in the United States. People are making money building prisons. People
are making money enslaving their fellow citizens. To me, this is no better than
the slavery of 200 years ago, because a dispro- portionate share of those
incarcerated in the United States are blacks and Latinos. There is a financial
I believe that many police officers believe they are doing the appropriate
thing, but there are also people who know that it is their job. I have spoken
to prosecutors who prosecute these sorts of offences. They say, "It is a
waste of time, but it is my job." They are saying, "It pays my
mortgage, so I am willing to throw people in jail."
There are people who honestly believe that prohibition is the way to go. That is
why we are trying to educate people and give them what we consider to be
realistic evidence, so that they will see that prohibition is not the only way
to go. There are so many factors at play.
Senator Carstairs: I agree completely that we need to have a comprehensive
review of drug policy in this country, and I agree with the four guidelines
that you have established; public health, rational pharmacology, cost
effectiveness and a review of the criminal law.
However, my dilemma is that this is not the committee in which to do this. We
have neither the resources nor the time. In the last couple of months, this
committee has dealt with gun control, the Pearson airport, electoral boundaries
Let us be practical for a moment. The government has suggested that two things
will happen: There will be a review of substance abuse, and there will also be
a panel of experts put together to make some sense of the scheduling, which I
think we all agree is a nightmare at the present time.
What are the alternatives for those of us sitting around this table? It seems to
me that we have three: We can amend the bill and then pass it; we can defeat
it, at which point we have the status quo, which I do not think is an
enhancement from your perspective; or we can pass it as it is.
Put yourself in our circumstance for a moment and tell us in very practical
terms what you would have this committee do.
Mr. Fischer: I see that dilemma. I myself wondered how members of this committee
would deal with that. I am not sure whether we have the answers for that.
You realize that there is a problematic situation and that Canadian drug policy
is not going the way you want it to go. You realize that at the present time,
the Narcotic Control Act is dominating this policy. If you will pass Bill C-7,
it will be at the centre of prohibitionist drug policy in this country. Bill
C-7 will give the government the basis to continue prohibition policy. The
question is what you as lawmakers can do about this.
As you said, if you defeat the bill or do not pass it, we have the status quo.
On the other hand, this would be a clear signal to the government that it has
not done its job properly, that it has not done its homework and must go back
to the drawing board and decide how drug control law should look in keeping
with the principles of rational, pragmatic and effective drug policy that we
I personally doubt that, through amendment, you can improve the situation
significantly and fundamentally, although I would prefer pragmatic amendments to
simply passing the bill the way it is. I think that rejecting the bill is the
most honest and pragmatic response to the situation. The second choice would be
to pass a number of fundamental amendments. The bill in its present form, is
fundamentally flawed and I do not believe that through it long-term,
fundamental changes to Canadian policy can be implemented.
Senator Lewis: On that point, both Houses of Parliament have now agreed with the
principle of this bill. This is what leads to the dilemma to which Senator
Senator DeWare: Senator Lewis is saying that when a bill is given second
reading, it means that we agree with it in principle, although we can do
whatever we like after that. I imagine you knew that.
Mr. Oscapella: We are not that well versed in the procedures of the Senate, but
I would hope that you are not in a position of having to commit for all
eternity to these sorts of measures.
There could be some amendments. Decriminalizing marijuana would obviously
decrease the number of arrests. However, that would not resolve the huge problem
of the impact of prohibitionist laws on the spread of AIDS, hepatitis B and
hepatitis C. It would not solve the problem of organized crime, drug-related
violence and those sorts of things.
If I were confident that there would be a truly honest reassessment, and not a
loaded reassessment, I would put great faith in a committee. However, we do not
know who would sit on such a committee or how it would be structured. As I
said, if it were the same people who have devised our drug policies to date,
who have proved remarkably inflexible, we would be just spinning our wheels.
Mr. Fischer: It would not make a lot of sense to have a policy review after this
bill is passed. Policy has been confirmed if this bill is passed. If you want a
reasonable and comprehensive policy review, this bill should be put on hold
until a policy review has reassessed the situation and reassessed the role of
the criminal law in drug policy in Canada. Then, based on the evidence from
such review, it would make sense to go back to the bill and see what is right
and what is wrong about it. If you pass this bill the way it stands right now,
there will be no need for a policy review because policy will be in place. This
bill is Canadian drug policy. The policy is prohibition.
Senator Carstairs: That policy is already in place, as you know. This bill does
not significantly change the policy one way or the other.
I have a request for you. I should like you to give us, in written form, a list
of practical amendments that could be made to this bill that you think could
enhance it. If you cannot do that, simply send us a recommendation to defeat
the bill. It is fine to talk theoretically, as we have today, about what we
hope will happen in the future, and I too hope that many of those things will
happen in the future. However, I must put my practical legislative hat on for a
moment and say, "I have a bill to deal with, and I want to know how to
deal specifically with this bill." If you can provide us with that, it
would be very useful.
Mr. Oscapella: Senator Carstairs, we will.
The Chairman: That is a fair request. You improve the bill or kill the bill.
Senator Losier-Cool: Like Senator Carstairs, I was expecting something more from
the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy than simply rejecting the bill. If you
can give us some guidelines, that will be appreciated.
However, I did not appreciate one comment that was made, and I am sure that many
grade 9 and 10 students would not have appreciated hearing you say that
students do not care. They do care about themselves. They do care about using
drugs. As a high school teacher for 25 years, I know that they do care.
Mr. Fischer: I was trying to say they do not care about the severity of the law.
They do care very much about themselves.
Senator Losier-Cool: I think they care about the severity of the law, also.
Dr. Riley spoke about drug users being afraid to seek help because of fear they
would be picked up by the police. Have either of the two lawyers here ever
defended someone who was seeking help when they were picked up by the police?
Mr. Oscapella: Senator, my entire career, since I was called to the bar in 1980,
has involved legislative and social policy. I have not been in a courtroom for
15 years now.
Mr. Gilmour: It is the same for me.
Mr. Oscapella: We work in the field of public policy. Perhaps Mr. Kellerman from
the Law Union of Ontario, who appeared before the committee yesterday, could
have spoken to that question more effectively. I hope you do not consider that
that undermines our credibility. I believe that the issues as social policy
advocates are still very profound.
I do not defend drug clients on a daily basis. I meet such people through my
work because I attend conferences where people are HIV positive and that sort
Senator Losier-Cool: I understand that, but you must meet lawyers as well.
Dr. Riley, did I understood you correctly?
Ms Riley: Yes. I have gained that knowledge through working directly with people
who come to see me, either for therapy or simply to talk because I am involved
with drug-user groups in Toronto and elsewhere and with self-help groups and
advocacy groups, and also through my experience in setting up syringe exchanges
in Toronto in the mid 1980s.
Police will pick up the people doing the exchange, such as myself, as well as
the users, and break their syringes or remove them, even if they are clean.
Users will be picked up with dirty syringes and that will be used as an excuse
to take them in for interrogation. Depending on the amount of drug in the
syringe, that can lead to other things.
The point is that people are being harassed with regard to carrying syringes,
which makes it difficult for them to go to a syringe exchange. We want them to
take their used needles there to get them off the streets.
Another concern is that police watch places such drop-in centres. They watch who
comes and goes and they follow them. People are, therefore, reluctant to use
them. There was a time when police were recording licence plate numbers seen
around certain agencies as well. That was battled in the courts.
There is the sense that, because these people are criminals, they are often
carrying drugs. Many of them are homeless so they have nowhere to leave their
drugs and syringes. As an alternative, they use shooting galleries which are
much more unhealthy because there they get used syringes and the quality of the
drug is not guaranteed.
In the Netherlands and the U.K., people are able to go openly to the police
station and ask for help. There they are given syringes and taken to services.
They are given materials to help them and they are counselled to become
registered. It is the difference between an open and caring attitude and a
closed one. That can be changed very quickly through education.
Senator Pearson: I agree that there is need for an in-depth reassessment. I
agree with Senator Carstairs that we need some practical suggestions, because
ours is a legislative role. Of course, anyone who hears what you have to say
must be interested in the whole context of what is happening with respect to
I am almost old enough to remember the prohibition of alcohol. Therefore,
although I would not say that there are flaws in your reasoning, there may be
some weaknesses in it. The fact that alcohol is not prohibited does not mean
that we do not bear an enormous cost for both alcohol addiction and violence
associated with alcohol, nor has it prevented a huge amount of money being
invested in the production of alcohol.
We must realise that these proposed changes will not cure the whole situation.
It reminds me a bit of that wonderful line in West Side Story:
Gee, Officer Krupke, I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived.
There are very complicated reasons behind drug addiction.
We had many discussions about deterrence with regard to youth when we were
studying the Young Offenders Act. We realized that there are problems with
deterrence in terms of the young mind.
In this area, we are not really talking about the law as deterrence; we are
talking about death. Do these people not know that they will get HIV? Why are
they not deterred by that?
Mr. Fischer: The principle of deterrence is based on the fundamental assumption
that a rational being can sit back and think, "I have choices here. What
will I choose to do? Will I choose to use heroin this afternoon, or will I
choose not to use heroin this afternoon?" That is the assumption.
Senator Pearson: I understand that. If you change the laws and make things
easier in some ways and less criminalized, some people will still kill
themselves. This is the perfect example. This is death, yet they are not
Ms Riley: Some of the cases in the overdose data from British Columbia and
Ontario would be suicides. But in most cases, these are first-time users, or
first-time users of drugs of this particular purity, and the overdose is
accidental. It is like you or I drinking a glass of liquor and not knowing what
proof it is. It could be any range.
Senator Pearson: I understand that. I am thinking about AIDS.
Ms Riley: With AIDS there are a number of issues. With the young, very often
there is a sense of, "It cannot possibly get me." Very often,
needle-sharing occurs with a close friend or lover, which may be construed as a
sign of trust. There is much education needed there.
But most often, the sharing of syringes occurs because clean syringes are not
available. They need the fix so badly that the other issues get pushed to the
back of their minds.
Very often, these people, especially the street kids, say: "Do you think I
care whether I get AIDS? That means that maybe I will die in ten years. I will
be dead in three years anyway because I have nothing to eat; I am beaten up
every day; I am kicked around by the police; I have no hope of a job."
That is their reality. HIV is only one thing which may eventually get them;
there are many things which can get them tomorrow. That is the mentality. Part
of it is the magical thinking that it will not be them. Another is the lack of
caring because there are so many other things to worry about.
Senator Pearson: Your answer refers to an issue which is much larger than what
we are dealing with here. Whatever we do here will have a smaller impact than
what needs to be done for these kids.
Ms Riley: Yes, but ensuring that they get clean syringes is a major step which
has been proven worldwide to keep HIV rates down.
We must give them not only treatment but service and caring, especially with
regard to law enforcement. The successful programs, especially those in
Merseyside and the U.K. in general, contain several ingredients, including
prescription of drugs. That is the formula for low HIV rates, low black market
levels and a much more caring and comfortable society.
Senator Pearson: Have you yet met with the Ontario government?
Mr. Oscapella: No.
Senator Milne: I appreciated your points. They are very valuable.
Mr. Gilmour, could you give me a bit more information on Australia's policy. Is
it a general policy across Australia, or is it different in different parts of
Australia? How do they deal with trafficking as compared to possession?
Mr. Gilmour: There are two jurisdictions in Australia which have fine expiation
programs with regard to possession of small amounts of cannabis. Australia,
unlike Canada, does not have a uniform criminal law system. The penal law
varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, trafficking is still a
crime basically throughout Australia. However, with regard to cannabis use, for
example, there is a movement at the national level to look at the cannabis laws
in effect throughout the country and to determine whether a direction should be
followed other than criminalization.
That process continues at this time. The report I mentioned earlier was one of a
national task force which is now doing further research in that area.
I mentioned the long-term study in the Australian Capital Territory of the
feasibility of the heroin trial. The parliament of the Australian Capital
Territory is in the process of determining whether to continue with that.
Ms Riley: With regard to the decriminalization of marijuana, the fine system is
now followed in a number of states and has been very successful. As Glenn
mentioned, that is now being considered at the national level. Also, people are
being allowed to grow their own, which addresses the issue of trafficking.
The issue of the heroin trial in Australia has been held up because Tasmania is
a producer of opium and Johnson and Johnson has threatened that if the heroin
trial is allowed, it will stop buying its opium from Australia.
That is one more example of how, at the international level, U.S. prohibitionist
policies affect what can be done throughout the world.
Senator Milne: In your formulation of a more specific recommendation, I ask you
to keep in mind that if the Senate defeats Bill C-7, there may well be no
legislative will whatsoever either to review the situation or to bring in
Senator Doyle: Was that a threat?
Senator Milne: No. I am simply saying that there will, after all, be an election
sometime in the future, and who would want to be talking about legalizing drugs
just before an election?
Senator Doyle: If you give us a list of recommendations, I hope that you will
include some guidelines on how to avoid the fate of the Le Dain Commission.
Mr. Oscapella: We will certainly try, senator.
Senator DeWare: We are talking about children and people on drugs. What about
those in the school system who are not on drugs? All the anti-smoking propaganda
has affected many of our young people. They are not smoking and they are
advising adults not to smoke. Seat-belt legislation has been successful because
of the education program that went along with it.
Why can we not show the young children in the school system what the results
could be if they smoke marijuana? Would it not be effective to scare them at
the lowest level?
Ms Riley: I have been involved with that area for some time. Scare tactics do
not seem to work. In fact, kids often find those ads quite amusing. They try
marijuana and find that it does not fry their brains, and that makes them think
that everything else is lies.
A few countries are beginning education in kindergarten about substances in
general; not on a moral plane but in terms of what it does to your body, your
family and so, and they work up from there. It is called harm reduction
education. They provide very basic facts, especially about legal drugs. It
shows kids the dangers of alcohol. A number of us are involved in the push to
get warning labels on alcohol bottles.
It is a balanced approach to provide the kids with the knowledge and the means
to assist them to change their behaviour. This is working well.
Programs such as the DARE program in the Unites States, which we have here to
some extent, have been evaluated by the University of California and several
other large evaluation centres and found to be seriously wanting. They are low
in efficacy and just do not provide the kids with ammunition for the real
Senator Carstairs: With regard to alcohol training in the school system, in my
experience one of the most effective approaches was responsibility for one
another. In my generation, there was no such thing as a designated driver.
However, among those in their twenties now, a designated driver is a very
The Chairman: I wish to thank you very much for your presentation and all of
your answers. I understand that you will send a list of amendments to our
Mr. Oscapella: Yes, we will.
The Chairman: I thank you in advance for that.
The committee adjourned.